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Content shot in 3D has a loyal audience, including children, animation buffs, and extreme sports enthusiasts. Many people in that last group are also fans of GoPro Hero video cameras. A recent story on the show detailed the story of GoPro’s founder, Nick Woodman, who in 2004 created the first GoPro camera—a version that used 35mm film—to capture high-quality images of himself surfing. A digital version arrived in 2005, and in 2012 Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn Electronics invested $200 million in the company.
By 2013, GoPro was the undisputed market leader in point-of-view-cameras. That dominance translated to 2.3 million cameras sold in 2012, grossing $521 million.
A huge segment of these extreme sports/GoPro enthusiasts want to capture and present their footage in 3D. The problem there is, affordable high-quality 3D video cameras simply aren’t available. There are some consumer cameras that squash the L/R image into a single HD frame, and others that use frame-packing, but none offer the fast frame rate required to capture extreme sports.
Enter the SuperHero 3D System, a solution that I created. For $500, a price that includes two Hero3 cameras plus shipping, extreme sports zealots will be able to create and post videos on YouTube in high-definition 3D. It’s a very exciting development for 3D-lovers everywhere.
The main ingredient in this package is a 3D-printed rig that holds two GoPro Hero3 cameras. I was inspired to make it after meeting with Ken Burgess of Cycloptical3D, a company that produces a line of 3D printed accessories for 3D cameras at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show in Las Vegas. At the same show, I visited the GoPro booth where the company was showing Hero3 camera footage shot in 3D at 2.7K/30p. When I asked about the availability of a GoPro 3D kit, they said it was coming, but couldn’t say when.
With my engineering background and years spent “thinking outside the box,” it was easy to let my imagination lead the way from there. Starting out, literally, from sketches on napkins, my process took me from CAD images to putting together my own 3D printer. I would design, print, test, change, print, repeating the cycle over and over again until I was satisfied with the results.
At the same time I had to overcome the problem of not having a dedicated 3D cable design to work with. (GoPro had produced one for the Hero2 camera, but not for the Hero3.) I tried using the company’s new Wi-Fi remote, but the results were, as they say, “Close but no cigar.” GoPro loyalists are a very DIY bunch, however. By trawling the various GoPro forums, I was able to find a great deal of info to help with my design. (Big thanks to Rambo and all the GoPro loyalists at Go Pro user forum for info and inspiration.)
Eventually, I was able to create a trigger cable to automatically start both cameras. I also modified some testing script in the “root” directory of each Hero3. Armed with the trigger cable, software, and 3D-printed rig, I finally came up with a Fixed Interaxial (the space between the lens which determines the 3D-ness of a scene) and an Adjustable Interaxial (for the more pro minded 3D user) system that records fantastic-looking 3D with professional-grade sync between the cameras.
I also designed a dual LCD Holder (which works with the GoPro LCD Touch Bac) and pass-thru cables so you can easily frame shots and watch while recording, along with Custom Handles that can be used facing up or flipped down depending upon what you are shooting. In the near future I plan to offer a battery replacement system that eliminates the need for the GoPro Batteries, which can run out quickly when shooting with the LCDs.
SuperHero in Action
The end result? A high-quality 3D videography solution for both professional and amateur shooters. To see how good it can look, check out this link to a video that I shot at the Ghost Festival in Northern Thailand near the Laos border.
Another clip shot at 1080/60p in Surin, Thailand at the Elephant Round Up festival where 240 elephants participated. This example shows the mind-blowing ability of the system to capture perfect slow-motion 3D
The GoPro can also shoot 2.7K at 30fps. Here is a short piece shot at dusk along the Chao Praya River in Bangkok
I expect to post both 720/120p and even 4K time-lapse style footage in the coming days at my YouTube site .
As you can see from the clips, the quality of the GoPro Hero matches many pro cameras, and its compact size makes it an amazing tool for producing documentary films. When used for 3D, it gives filmmakers the ability to shoot in many locales that weren’t possible before. And for consumers, since the Fixed IA SuperHero is just point-and-shoot it makes shooting 3D affordable and easy.
Six packages are available with prices starting at $99 click for ordering information .
What’s coming up next? I have several ideas on the drawing board. For pro users, I am working on a professional Beam-splitter-style rig, like those used to create blockbuster 3D films. I also have a few more devices in mind for consumers interested in shooting great 3D. A company has approached me about producing a Quadcopter Drone to go along with my SuperHero 3D System—an idea that I find very interesting. I have also been asked about marketing my 3D printer. 3D printing is going mainstream: You’ll soon you’ll be able to send commands from any location to your 3D printer at home via a smartphone app, and when you return the model will be there waiting for you. I like that idea.
Al Caudullo (a.k.a the 3DGuy) is the creator of the SuperHero 3D System. He is a 3D Filmmaker, 3D Tech Journalist and frequent speaker on 3D technology at conferences around the world.
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